Tag Archives: Language

Signs of the times

Aside from finding out there’s nothing really wrong with you, the best thing about going to the doctor is you get a chance to read the kinds of magazines you’d love to subscribe to, if only to put them on your own coffee table to look like you’re an intellectual. On a recent dental trip, I had the privilege to indulge myself in Archeology Magazine. It brought back memories of when I was a child and wanted to be an archeologist. It was a short-lived aspiration. As soon as I learned those folks often lived for months on end in tents with no “real” toilet, I moved on to another career goal.

One of the reasons why I still enjoy the study of archeology is because of the way modern historians interpret artifacts, texts and even graffiti on ruins to learn about a society. For example, there is plenty of graffiti in the ruins of Pompeii to suggest that not only were the inhabitants there on the lascivious side, they enjoyed their drink and defecated just about anywhere.

I don’t remember reading anything on how archeologists interpreted road signs in ancient Rome, but on a recent trip, I couldn’t help but wonder what post-apocalyptic historians might deduce from our street signs of today.

For example, there is a street sign near my neighborhood that says: Opposing traffic has extended green. I think I almost ran the red light there a few times before I figured out what it meant. What will historians think it means? Will they wonder if we met up at that intersection to have pro vs con debates and the opposing teem gets a longer time on the grassy area next to it to speak?

After seeing this sign, will they think we’re a careless lot:

I rather think someone in the factory got it wrong. Shouldn’t it be Done More Drinking Street? Will historians think the sign maker was drunk when he made it?

Or, will they think the deer were once literate when they stumble upon these signs:

There were all sorts of those as we drove through up-state New York. Sometimes the deer crossing would be for the next 3 miles at others for the next 10. How do the deer know how large their cross walk is? Do they get in trouble if they cross before the sign? If it says Deer Crossing Next 1 mile, do deer gangs challenge new members to walk across at 1.1 mile?

My favorite sign of all times is one we saw in a window:

Which, if I were an historian stumbling upon this amidst the ruins of our culture, I would shake my head in awe over that fact that we knew just how messed up we were.



Filed under Chaos, Commentary, TASFUIL

Am I old?

God, I just can’t stand it.  But every bleeping day there’s yet another sign that yes indeedy, I’m getting old(er).

In an email I received yesterday, someone used the acronym FWIW to begin a paragraph.  I had no idea what it meant.  It took me an hour and two phone calls to figure it out:  For What It’s Worth.  (Which is much nicer and cleaner than anything I came up with.)

Of course I flew into a steaming diatribe against texting and how it’s degrading the English language and how we’re all going to be illiterates unable to read words with vowels within the next decade. 

But then, after I calmed down and had a cocktail last night, a different, and somewhat scary, perspective fuzzied up my logic.

The thing is, I can’t specifically say what’s wrong with texting.  The English language has never been static.  It’s in a continual state of flux and change.  It is different than it was 500 years ago, and almost unidentifiable from its form of 1,000 years ago–and nothing horrible happened because of that state of change. So why does it bother me so much when I experience it changing in front of me?

I think it’s because I’m getting older. 

Let’s face it, the world continues to change and go faster all the time and the only people who have problems with it are the older folk.

Like the elderly woman at Acme Grocer the other day.  She accidentally got in the self-checkout line, thinking it was a wider aisle for the handicapped.  While she fumbled with the machine and created a line of smug, sighing, eye-rolling impatients behind her, I could tell she was becoming more and more angry and defensive.  I stepped up to help her scan, bag and pay.  She thanked me, begrudgingly.  Then there was an off-hand remark about how “these damn machines” are destroying the world as we know it; making everyone anti-social.

Is it because I’m younger than she and have never had a checking account without a debit card that the self-checkout line only seems to make sense?  I don’t think I’m anti-social.  Most of the cashiers are rude as hell to begin with.  So if I have a chance to check out without dealing with them it makes me a happier person, hence more apt to be social with people I want to socialize with.

But, if I was thirty or forty years older and had come into adulthood speaking to “the girl” behind the counter as I write my personal check for my food, would I be as happy with the self-checkouts as I am now? 

And, if I was twenty or thirty years younger and had yet to develop my adult habits, would I still be upset with how texting is changing the way we spell and use grammar?

Perhaps fighting age has nothing to do with anti-wrinkle creams and plastic surgery.  Perhaps we should let go of the fight against graying hairs and start fighting ourselves whenever we insist on keeping the status quo. Prhps.

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Filed under Age, Commentary, Definitions